Warehouses can be incredibly hostile environments for operating Wi-Fi networks because they are filled with metal structures, unfriendly RF obstacles, competing handheld Wi-Fi devices, and sparse amounts of Ethernet cabling. More importantly, warehouses are in a constant state of flux with inventory continually moving in and out of vast spaces. This changes RF conditions, often having a dramatic effect on Wi-Fi performance as obstacles and interference cause connectivity and performance problems.
Wi-Fi is a cost-effective way for distributors to make their warehouse processes more efficient by allowing universal access to real-time inventory information and eliminating counting and picking errors. However, the inability to maintain consistent and high-speed Wi-Fi connections to weak handheld scanner and bar code readers has hampered its effectiveness. Warehouses around the world are now standardizing on advanced Wi-Fi systems that overcome these problems by adapting Wi-Fi transmissions automatically as RF conditions change, using sophisticated directional signaling technology that focuses and steers Wi-Fi traffic over the best path to each wireless device.
Originally developed as a technology of convenience, Wi-Fi is often ill-equipped to provide reliable, enterprise-class connectivity and performance to support mission-critical processes. Interference, along with constant changes in the RF environment, makes it difficult to prevent or troubleshoot Wi-Fi problems. Inadequate range, spotty coverage, and erratic behaviour remain fundamental issues to wireless deployments. As warehouses deal with greater volumes of smaller, just-in-time orders, or more reverse logistics activity related to online consumer purchases, fast and accurate AIDC is critical to meeting cost and performance targets.
Ruckus Networks invented Smart Wi-Fi technology that, for the first time, brings range and reliability to Wi-Fi environments. It has developed and patented several RF technology breakthroughs that enable Wi-Fi signals to be focused and directed in real time over the best performing signal paths. Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi technology delivers extended range and reliable signals that automatically adapt to environmental changes. Patented technology steers signals around interference, obstruction and obstacles, including floor-to-ceiling metal racks, varying inventories and automated equipment, ensuring unprecedented coverage and performance.
Better signal strength and coverage are the key attributes to enabling new and more effective mobile workflows. Improved connectivity enables better application performance driving improved workflows and higher employee morale. A recent Intermec study found that a typical warehouse worker lost 15 minutes of productivity per day due to inefficient workflows or other impediments such as poor connectivity. Consistent wireless performance improves productivity and eliminates the hassle and frustration of slow response times or lost data. It can also extend battery life since the device isn’t working so hard to stay connected.
Superior RF performance enables superior coverage with fewer APs. In addition to reducing equipment costs, this lowers installation costs since there are fewer APs to install and placement is easier since they provide better reach. Better yet, APs can be meshed together in one or two hop meshes, completely eliminating the need to run Cat 5 cabling to many APs and potentially enabling companies to expand coverage into new areas that were previously unreachable such as outdoors or in outside buildings.
This improved wireless network performance translates directly into better business results. The Intermec survey of 250 supply chain and warehouse and distribution managers found that over 60% agree that savings seconds in operating workflows can drive large time and cost savings from saving steps for workers, faster label printing, quicker barcode label scanning and eliminating battery changes mid-shift, especially in labor intensive activities such as packing and loading, picking and inventory control.